Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-500mm f/2.8-5.6E ED VR Lens

Ok, so the headline is a joke, but it would be nice to own such a lens :)  I recently got the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 lens and was in Squamish looking for Bald Eagles.  With me I also had my Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lenses.  The 14-24 and 200-500 represent the two extremes of the focal lengths I'm able to shoot.  I thought it may be fun to do a test to see just how much difference there is between 14mm and 500mm.  I threw in a few intermediate focal lengths as well.  The scene is in Squamish, BC, Canada beside the BC SPCA and looking northwest to Mount Garibaldi.  All photos taken with the Nikon D810.

14mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 14mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 14mm

 

24mm (I noticed a slight difference at 24mm between the 14-24 and 24-70, discussed below.)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 24mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 24mm

 

70mm (Sorry for the typo on the image text, obviously not the 14-24.)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 70mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 70mm

 

200mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 200mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 200mm

 

300mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 300mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 300mm

 

400mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 400mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 400mm

 

500mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm

 

Now an overlay between 14mm and 500mm, move mouse left/right to see both images.
[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5460" after_image_id="5467" arrows="true"]

 

When does 24mm not mean 24mm?
Finally, when reviewing images taken during the testing I saw a difference between the 24mm images shot with the 14-24mm and 24-70mm.  Here are the two images side by side.
[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5466" after_image_id="5465" arrows="true"]

 

I then applied Lightroom's lens correction to both 24mm images, to see if that would close the difference.  A greater change was made to the 24-70, but there is still a substantial difference between the two.  Here are the two corrected images.

[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5468" after_image_id="5469" arrows="true"]

 

If anyone is curious on how the 200-500mm performed when shooting eagles, I have yet to process most photos but here are a couple initial images.

Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens
Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens

 

Brackendale Bald Eagle in Tree : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens (500mm)
Brackendale Bald Eagle in Tree : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens (500mm)

Nikon D810 Front

Nikon D810 Setup and Configuration

Nikon D810 Front

Updated on August 21, 2016 for Nikon's latest D810 firmware: C 1.11, L: 2.013.

The Nikon D800/D800 Setup and Configuration post I made a few years ago has been one of my most popular.  Now that I have the Nikon D810, I decided to create a new list of my settings (and a new setup file for download).  If you want more info on why I upgraded to the D810, you can read about that here.

The menu banks are not great because they don't save all of the settings you need to change, but they are better than nothing.  The U1/U2 settings of the D750, D610, and D7100 are superior to the menu banks both in terms of features and ease of use.  I have no idea why Nikon has decided to leave out such a fantastic function on their high-end cameras.  Neither the D800/D810 nor the D4/D4s have the U1/U2 settings.  Nice work Nikon.

Here are the four menu banks I created:

  • Landscape & HDR - sets up the camera for landscape or high dynamic range shooting.  I usually use a tripod and have time for manual focus, etc.
  • Action - I usually use this setting when chasing my young kids, but also for my dogs or any other moving subject.
  • Portrait - useful not just for portraits but for any stationary or slow moving targets.
  • Point & Shoot - Since I use the "AF-ON" focusing technique (*1), it makes it difficult for my wife or friend to use my camera.  Rather than try to explain the technique, I just change the settings and let them shoot.  Since my wife often just wants a couple of quick photos to post online, this is the only bank where I also shoot JPEG.

The settings for all four modes are outlined below.  Note that the settings just make the starting point for configuration easier.  It doesn't mean these are always the settings I use when shooting.  I may not use ISO64 for all situations nor the same AF settings.  If you want to use them as a starting point for your own custom settings it is easiest to just download my config file here.  Choose the right file for your firmware (check your firmware SETUP MENU -> Firmware version).

C: 1.02, L:2.005 : Download Nikon D810 custom settings file 1.02.

C: 1.11, L: 2.013 : Download Nikon D810 custom settings file 1.11.

To use the custom settings file, copy it to the root folder of your media card using your computer, insert the media card into your camera and navigate to SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> Load settings. This will copy the settings over to your camera.  You may want to save your own settings before you copy mine to your camera in case you need to revert back.

Note the [change this] in the settings below, these are things you will want to change in your own camera before you start shooting.  At the bottom of this post, you can also see what I put in "MY MENU" to access some controls I often change on the fly.

To switch between the various menu banks, you have several options:

  • The slow way:
    • Shooting menu bank: go to menu -> shooting menu -> shooting menu bank -> select your bank.
    • Custom settings menu: go to custom setting menu -> custom settings bank -> select your bank.
  • The fast way:
    • Press the "i" button on the back of the camera (no idea why Nikon gave us yet another button, sigh). "SHOOT" should be selected, press the center button in the multi-selector, pick your setting.  Do the same for custom settings bank ("CUSTOM").

If you have questions, or a suggestion feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the page.  If you want more detail on the settings below download Nikon's D810 manual (free).

Landscape & HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
EXTERNAL CONTROLS
Exposure ModeA (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)P (Program)
Metering Mode3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix MeteringCenter Weighted Metering3D Matrix Metering
BracketingAs needed (usually 3 frames +/-2 EV)OffOffOff
Shooting ModeSingle, Timer, or MUPCH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)
Autofocus Mode *1Manual or AF-C, single pointAF-C, groupAF-C, single point or groupAF-S, Auto

PLAYBACK MENU
DeleteSelected
Playback folderND810 (default)
Hide imageDefault
Playback display optionsHighlights, RGB histogram, Overview
Copy image(s)N/A
Image reviewOff
After deleteShow next
Rotate tallOff
Slide showN/A
DPOF print orderN/A

SHOOTING MENU
Landscape & HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
Shooting menu bankABCD
Extended menu banksONONONON
Storage folderDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
File NamingMKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]
Primary slot selectionCF card slotCF card slotCF card slotCF card slot
Secondary slot functionBackupBackupBackupRAW primary - JPEG secondary
Image qualityRAWRAWRAWRAW + JPEG fine
JPEG/TIFF recording
- Image sizeN/AN/AN/ASmall
- JPEG compressionN/AN/AN/AOptimal quality
NEF (RAW) recording
- Image sizeLargeLargeLargeLarge
- NEF (RAW) compressionLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressed
- NEF (RAW) bit depth14-bit14-bit14-bit14-bit
Image area
- Choose image areaFX1.2xFXFX
- Auto DX cropOnOnOnOn
White BalanceAuto1Auto1Auto1Auto1 (change as needed)
Set Picture ControlSD (Standard)SD (Standard)PT (Portrait)SD (Standard)
Manage Picture ControlDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Color SpaceAdobeRGBAdobeRGBAdobeRGBsRGB
Active D-LightingOffOffOffH (High)
HDR (high dyn. range)N/A (disabled when shooting RAW)N/A (disabled when shooting RAW)N/A (disabled when shooting RAW)Off
Vignette controlNormalNormalNormalHigh
Auto distortion controlOnOnOnOn
Long Exposure NROffOffOffOff
High ISO NROffOffOffNormal
ISO Sensitivity Settings
ISO sensitivity6464 (adjust as needed)64 (adjust as needed)100 (adjust as needed)
Auto ISO sensitivity controlOffOn (Max ISO: 6400,Min shutter: auto, auto, max fasteraster)OffOn (Max ISO: 6400,Min shutter: auto, auto, max faster)
Multiple exposureOffOffOffOff
Interval timer shootingOffOffOffOff
Time-lapse photographyOffOffOffOff
Movie settings
Frame size/rate1920x1080; 60fps1920x1080; 60fps1920x1080; 60fps1920x1080; 60fps
Movie qualityHighHighHighHigh
Microphone sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivity
Frequency responseWideWideWideWide
Wind noise reductionOffOffOffOff
DestinationSDSDSDSD
Movie ISO sensitivity settings
- ISO sensitivity (mode M)100100100100
- Auto ISO control (mode M)OnOnOnOn
- Maximum sensitivity6400640064006400

CUSTOM SETTING MENU
Landscape & HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
Custom settings bankABCD
a1 AF-C priority selectionReleaseReleaseReleaseFocus
a2 AF-S priority selectionFocusFocusFocusFocus
a3 Focus tracking with lock-onLongOffNormalOff
a4 AF activationOff (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)On
a5 Focus point display
- Manual focus modeOffOffOffOff
- Dynamic-area AF displayOnOnOnOn
- Group-area AF illuminationBoxesBoxesBoxesBoxes
a6 AF point illuminationAutoAutoAutoAuto
a7 Focus point wrap-aroundOn - WrapOn - WrapOn - WrapOn - Wrap
a8 Number of focus pointsAF 51 (51 points)AF11 (11 points)AF 51 (51 points)AF11 (11 points)
a9 Store by orientationOffOffOffOff
a10 Built-in AF-assist illuminatorOffOffOffOff
a11 Limit AF-area mode selectionAll checkedAll checkedAll checkedAll checked
a12 Autofocus mode restrictionsOffOffOffOff
b1 ISO sensitivity step value1/31/31/31/3
b2 EV steps for exposure cntrl1/31/31/31/3
b3 Exp./flash comp step value1/31/31/31/3
b4 Easy exposure compensationOffOffOffOff
b5 Matrix meteringOffOnOnOn
b6 Center-weighted area12mm12mm8mm12mm
b7 Fine-tune optimal exposure0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)
c1 Shutter-release AE-LOffOffOffOff
c2 Standby timer10s10s10s10s
c3 Self-timer
- Self-timer delay2s10s10s10s
- Number of shots2 (N/A if bracket enabled)111
- Interval between shots0.5s0.5s0.5s0.5s
c4 Monitor off delay
- Playback10s10s10s10s
- Menus1m1m1m1m
- Information display10s10s10s10s
- Image review10s10s10s10s
- Live view10m10m10m10m
d1 BeepOffOffOffOff
d2 CL mode shoot speed2fps2fps2fps2fps
d3 Max continuous release100100100100
d4 Exposure delay mode3sOffOffOff
d5 Electronic front-curtain shutterOnOffOffOff
d6 File number sequenceOnOnOnOn
d7 Viewfinder grid displayOnOnOffOff
d8 ISO display adjustmentOffOffOffOff
d9 Screen tipsOnOnOnOn
d10 Information displayAutoAutoAutoAuto
d11 LCD illuminationOnOnOnOn
d12 MB-D12 battery typeLR6LR6LR6LR6
d13 Battery orderMB-D12MB-D12MB-D12MB-D12
e1 Flash Sync Speed1/2501/2501/2501/250
e2 Flash shutter speed1/601/601/601/60
e3 Flash cntrl for built-in flashTTLTTLTTLTTL
e4 Exposure comp. for flashEntire frameEntire frameEntire frameEntire frame
e5 Modeling flashOnOnOnOn
e6 Auto bracketing setAEAEAEAE
e7 Auto bracket (Mode M)Flash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speed
e8 Bracketing orderUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > over
f1 switchLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info display
f2 Multiselect center button
- Shooting modeResetResetResetReset
- Playback modeZoom, 1:1 (100%)cZoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)
- Live viewZoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)Zoom, 1:1 (100%)
f3 Multi selectorOffOffOffOff
f4 Assign Fn button
- Fn button pressViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizon
- Fn button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f5 Assign preview button
- Preview button pressPreviewPreviewPreviewPreview
- Preview button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f6 Assign AE-L/AF-L button
- AE-L/AF-L button pressAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lock
- AE-L/AF-L + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f7 Shutter spd & aperture lockOffOffOffOff
f8 Assign BKT ButtonBKTBKTBKTBKT
f9 Customize command dialsDefault (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)
f10 Release button to use  dialOffOffOffOff
f11 Slot empty release lockLockLockLockLock
f12 Reverse indicators- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +
f13 Assign movie record buttonChoose image areaChoose image areaChoose image areaChoose image area
f14 Live view button optionsOnOnOnOn
f15 Assign MB-D12 AF-ONAF-ONAF-ONAF-ONAF-ON
f16 Assign remote (WR) Fn buttonOffOffOffOff
f17 Lens focus function buttonsAF lock onlyAF lock onlyAF lock onlyAF lock only
g1 Assign Fn buttonPower aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)
g2 Assign preview buttonPower aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)
g3 Assign AE-L/AF-LAE LockAE LockAE LockAE Lock
g4 Assign shutter buttonRecord moviesRecord moviesRecord moviesRecord movies

SETUP MENU
Format memory cardAs needed
Monitor brightnessManual (0)
Monitor color balanceDefault
Clean image sensorClean at shutdown (no sense delaying startup)
Lock mirror up cleaningAs needed
Image Dust Off ref photoAs needed
Flicker reductionAuto
Time zone and dateSet to local time
LanguageEnglish
Auto image rotationOn
Battery infoN/A
Image comment *2None
Copyright InformationOn [change this]
Save/load settingsAs needed
Virtual horizonN/A
Non-CPU lens dataN/A
AF fine tuneSet for your lenses if needed
HDMIN/A
Location dataN/A
Firmware versionN/A

RETOUCH MENU
Never use it

MY MENU
c3 Self-timer
d4 Exposure delay mode
d5 Electronic front-curtain shutter
Time zone and date
Long exposure NR
High ISO NR
Active D-Lighting

Footnotes

*1 - Autofocus : I use the "AF-ON" technique (for lack of a better term) to focus my camera. You can read more about the technique here. You will see that in my settings, I primarily use AF-C as the default focus mode when I use the camera. With the AF-ON technique, you decouple the focusing of the camera from the shutter press. The nice thing is that you can have both continuous and static autofocus at the same time. Focus and recompose is also easier as you don't have to keep the shutter half-pressed, just release the AF-ON button and the camera stops focusing. It works very well, but takes a bit of getting used to. This technique works on both Nikon and Canon cameras (likely other brands as well but I haven't checked into it).

*2 - Image comment : There are two spots to put your personal info into the file EXIF data: "Image comment" and "Copyright information". Some people use both, but there isn't really a reason to do so. I have found one reason not to use the 'image comment' field, and that is because the comment shows up in the description field when you post images online (facebook for example). At times, I post images to facebook and I don't want the description for each one to say "copyright Mike Heller Photography", blah, blah, blah. My friends want to see something about the image, not a copyright notice. For me, it just makes the upload process more time consuming and it doesn't add any value. You may want to use it, so feel free to use the field if that fits into your workflow.



Nikon D800 to D810 Logo

Why I upgraded my Nikon D800 to a D810

 Nikon D800 to D810 Logo

Why I Upgraded

In this section I list the main reasons I upgraded my Nikon D800 to a Nikon D810.  There wasn't anything wrong with the D800, it was an amazing camera capable of fantastic results.  There were a few things that made the difference though.  In general, Nikon took an already great camera and made it better.

  1. No anti-alias filter.  Also known as Optical Low Pass Filter, Blur Filter, and probably a few other names.  When the D800 and D800E were released, it created a lot of speculation about the potential moire and false color problems that the D800E would face.  I had actually planned to get a D800E but my local shop had the D800 first and said I'm facing a 4+ month wait for an E model.  I decided to get the D800 and start shooting.  In the end, the fears around no AA filter in the D800E were unfounded, the vast majority of shooters have never had a problem.   Given the lack of issues, Nikon didn't even bother with a filtered version of the D810.  In fact, it improved on the D800E even further.  Where the D800E had an AA filter that cancelled itself out, the D810 has no AA filter at all in the stack.  The sharpness benefits are not drastic, but there are there and I'm happy to have the best possible starting image.
  2. Frame rate.  5fps in full frame mode (36 megapixels) with full AF and metering.  Drop it down to 1.2X crop and you get 6fps and 24 megapixels.  Plenty of resolution, plenty of speed, and no battery grip needed.  I really don't need more than 6fps, when I shoot bursts it's often chasing my kids so the 1.2x crop suits me just fine.  The rest of the time I'm shooting landscapes or architecture. The D810 feels like both an action cam and a landscape cam in one body.  Perfect.
  3. Improved autofocus. I had plenty of problems with my D800 autofocus.  It was plagued with the 'left focus problem' and went to Nikon three times before it finally came back fixed.  The D810 seems to work great out of the box and now has group AF mode and better face detection.
  4. Improved bracketing.  The D800 was limited to +/- 1 EV between exposures, the D810 extends that to +/- 3 EV (it can also do 1 and 2 EV).   To get a standard -2/0/+2 exposure for HDR I had to take 5 shots with the D800 and then throw away two of them.  With the D810, I can take the 3 I need and call it a day.  More flexibility, more options, and solved something that always bugged me about the D800.  Worse still that this would have been a simple firmware fix for Nikon.
  5. Electronic front curtain shutter.  The D800 had mirror up (MUP) and exposure delay modes to reduce the vibration effects of the mirror.  The D810 takes it a step further by also eliminating the vibration effects of the shutter.  Well done Nikon.
  6. ISO 64.  Base ISO is now 64 (instead of 100 in the D800).  Gives me options for long exposures and bright light with fast lenses.
  7. ISO 12,800.  I'm unlikely to shoot at the upper end of the ISO range often, but noise performance has been improved at 3200 and 6400 as well, which is a bonus.
  8. Live View improved.  Nikon made great improvements in Live View over the D800.  Not only is the LCD a higher resolution screen, but the nasty artifacts that plagued the D800 are now gone.  I use LV frequently, especially at 100% zoom, for critical focus work so the D810 is a joy to use.
  9. Hand grip improved.  I have large hands, and the D800 never felt that comfortable in my hands.  The D810 brings some much welcome changes here, the grip is noticeably improved and the camera feels much more secure in my hand.

Nice To Have Extras

Here are some of the added benefits of the D810 that didn't have a big impact on my decision but I'm happy to have them.

  1. Highlight weighted metering.  An extra metering mode useful in some tricky situations.
  2. Metering and bracketing selection improved.  I'm usually not a fan of buttons getting moved around, but the new layout is actually easier to use.  The ring around the AF-ON wasn't the easiest way to select the metering mode, the button/wheel method is better.
  3. Quiet mirror/shutter.  Not Q (quiet) mode, but the operation of the mirror and shutter are much softer and better dampened than in the D800.  This likely improves sharpness but also makes the camera more pleasant to use.
  4. Split screen live view.  Limited usefulness, but I have used it a couple of times when leveling a horizon.  I think it would be more useful with tilt-shift lenses (which I don't have), to ensure critical focus in multiple areas of the image.
  5. Improved battery life.  1200 shots in the D810, only 900 in the D800.  Battery life was never a big problem for me, but I'll take more.
  6. Double the buffer size.  With the improved frame rates, this is an added bonus.   I don't often hit the limit with the D810.
  7. Timer function improved.  Just set up the number of bracketed shots you want to take, switch the camera into timer mode, and hit the shutter release once.  The D810 will take the full bracket sequence for you.  Easy.

Added To D810, But I Don't Care

Here are a few things added to the D810 that are of no use to me.  I'm not saying they are useless, some of you may put them in your own "this is why I upgraded" list.  For me, they are things I'm unlikely to use or gain any benefit from.

  1. Zebras in movie mode.  Shows you highlight clipping.  I almost never shoot movies with my DSLR so don't care if it shows dancing hippos.
  2. Two info buttons.  "i" and "info", why Nikon?  You had one button that you could click twice.  Now I have two buttons, and I usually press the wrong one.
  3. Flat picture control, clarity adjustment.  This only makes a difference for jpeg shooting, but I shoot 98% of my shots in RAW (NEF).  Which leads me to...
  4. sRAW.  Not real RAW, I don't care.
  5. 1080p 60p (full HD).  Again, I don't shoot video.  Even if it shot 8K... yawn.
  6. There are a few more, but I have forgotten about them already.

What Didn't Make It Into The D810 But Should Have

Nikon had the opportunity to fix some things in the D810 but chose not to.  Here are a few things which I would have liked to see (some could even be implemented with a firmware upgrade I suspect).

  1. EFC in timer mode.  Why only in MUP?  Give me a firmware fix for this please.   I want a 2-second timer, 3 second exposure delay, and EFC.
  2. User preset modes (U1/U2).  The memory banks suck, I use them but I would much prefer the preset modes present on other cameras in Nikon's lineup.
  3. WiFi.  It's 2015 Nikon, get in the game.  Give me wifi and the ability to use my iPhone as a remote trigger.  Even better, give me an app for the Apple Watch!
  4. Exposures longer than 30 seconds.  Why is this still a limitation?  I need my remote trigger with me at all times, and it would need it at all if I could set my exposure to any value.  Another firmware fix please. UPDATE (June 1, 2015): The Nikon D810A camera (targeted at astrophotography) has a new M* mode (Long Exposure Manual Mode) that allows you to set the exposure time between 4 and 900 seconds.  Would be great if Nikon made this available via firmware on the D810.

 


Nikon D800 Top

What is Nikon Thinking? D300S, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810, D4s Compared

With the release of the D750, I'm starting to wonder what Nikon is thinking with their lineup.  Shooters I know are waiting for a true replacement for both the D300s and the D700.  Arguments can be made that the D7100 replaces the D300s, and the D750 replaces the D700.  However, an equal number (and maybe more) arguments can be made that no replacements exist.  In this post, I'll quickly cover some of the specs that differentiate the cameras that are current in the lineup.  Nikon has a lot of bodies on their site but I wouldn't consider many of them current (D90, really?).  Here, I'll just look at the D300s, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810 and the D4s.  The other bodies (D7000, D4, etc. that Nikon still lists are all very similar to at least one model discussed below).

 

 

Spec

D300s

D7100

D610

D700

D750

Df

D810

D4s

Release Date20092013201420082014201320142014
Price$1500$1200$2000$2500$2300$2750$3300$6500
Sensor Resolution (MP)1224241224163616

 Nikon DSLR Lineup: Price vs Megapixels

Nikon DSLR Lineup Price vs Megapixels Sept 2014: D3300, D5300, D300s, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810, D4s

(Click for larger)

 

I'm not listing the spec of the lower end cams in the table, but they are shown on the graph above. In general the price curve makes sense, even if the D3300 is a kit price (with lens) and the rest are body-only. Higher spec bodies are higher in price.

  • The D4s takes a huge jump in price, but it is as the top of the lineup and does offer great performance.
  • The majority of the Nikon lineup now uses as 24 megapixel sensor, which is plenty of resolution for almost any application.  It must be a sweet spot for price and performance.  Now I realize that megapixels are not the only measure of performance but they do play a role, many consumers still stick to 'more is better'.  The current cameras present a marketing challenge for Nikon, and so far they have not done a good job of telling us why you would buy one model over another.
  • The D300s is sitting with just 12 megapixels (APS-C), for less money you get a much more capable camera in a D7100 but you give up build quality and familiar ergonomics.
  • The D700 is also sitting at 12 megapixels (full frame), and Nikon has options that are more capable but unfortunately not in the same body.  The D750 has a better sensor (six years of evolution is an eternity in the tech world), but in a lesser body.  The D810 has a better sensor (best on the market in any DSLR), but with a much lower frame rate.  There is no clear upgrade path.
  • The Df is an oddball too, having only 16 megapixels, no flash, no video, and a mix of modern and classic controls.

Let's look at a few more stats.

Spec

D300s

D7100

D610

D700

D750

Df

D810

D4s

ISO Range200 - 3200100 - 6400100 - 6400200 - 6400100 - 12800100 - 1280064 - 12800100 - 25600
AF Points5151395151395151
Max Shutter1/80001/80001/40001/80001/40001/40001/80001/8000
Frame Rate7/8665/865.5511

 Nikon DSLR Lineup: Price vs Frame Rate

Nikon DSLR Lineup Price vs Frame Rate Sept 2014: D3300, D5300, D300s, D7100, D610, D700, D750, Df, D810, D4s

(Click for larger)

 

One thing that strikes me is that the D300s is a camera that was released in 2009 and Nikon has nothing since (outside of the very expensive pro bodies) that has bettered the frame rate.  If we look at the D700 it's even more apparent (8fps with grip).  Both the D300s and D700 feature pro build and ergonomics, fast frame rates, great autofoucs and other related 'pro' features (flash sync speed, max shutter, etc.).  The D7100 comes close to replacing the D300s, but you need to accept a different style body with different ergonomics.  Same for the D610 or D750 replacing the D700, they don't truly do so. To me, the Df is a waste of time.  Sure, it's good in low light but that is because it has a great sensor.  The rest of it is there just to get the old guys to buy it for nostalgia.  It is crippled with a poor AF module (relative to price), no video (that isn't a 'feature'), and more. Anyone who was going to buy one did so already, ditch it.  The D750 should have been a pro body (controls same as a D810), with 16 or 24 megapixels.  In fact, this is what I think Nikon should have done, if you don't agree let me know :)

 

DX

FX

Spec

D7100

D400

D610

D750

D810

D4s

BodyConsumerProConsumerProProPro
Price$1200$1800$2000$2500$3300$6500
Sensor Resolution (MP)242416243616
ISO Range100 - 6400100 - 6400100 - 6400100 - 1280064 - 12800100 - 25600
AF Points515139515151
Max Shutter1/80001/80001/40001/80001/80001/8000
Frame Rate6868511

To me, it's a more clear lineup. Two capable DX cameras, one in a consumer body and one in a pro body. The pro body will have a faster frame rate, a tougher build, and the same ergonomics as the pro FX bodies. The FX bodies also seem to have a clear distinction between them. Entry level D610 is a consumer type body, with a less capable AF system and slower max shutter (other features may also be worth discussing). The D750 should have been a true successor to the D700, same frame rate and build quality but with double the pixels. The D810 is the high resolution beast and the D4s the speed demon for those that need it. Each one has a clear place in the lineup and people may buy more than one.


Nikon D800 Angle 2

Nikon D800 and D800E Setup and Configuration

D800 Big Lens

I now have a page with the setup and configuration for the Nikon D810.

A while back, Out There Images posted a list of recommended settings for the Nikon D800. I used that as a starting point to create four custom menu banks for my most common shooting situations.  The menu banks are not great because they don't save all of the settings you need to change, but they are better than nothing.  The U1/U2 settings of the D7000 and D600 are superior to the menu banks both in terms of features and ease of use.  I have no idea why Nikon has decided to leave out such a fantastic function on their high-end cameras.  Neither the D800 nor the D4 have the U1/U2 settings.  Nice work Nikon.

Here are the four menu banks I created:

  • HDR - sets up the camera for high dynamic range shooting.  I usually use a tripod, have time for manual focus, etc.  If the shutter speed is fairly slow, I also turn on "Exposure delay mode" (custom setting d4).
  • Action - I often use this when photographing dogs at the local animal shelter.
  • Portrait - useful not just for portraits but for any stationary or slow moving target.
  • Point & Shoot - Since I use the "AF-ON" focusing technique (*1), it makes it difficult to hand my camera to a stranger if I want to be in the photo.  Rather than try to explain the technique, I just change the settings and let them shoot.  I also use this mode when I give the camera to my wife, sometimes she just wants to take a few simple shots so this mode shoots in jpeg with things configured to make shooting easier.

The settings for all four modes are outlined below.  Note that the settings just make the starting point for configuration easier.  It doesn't mean these are always the settings I use when shooting.  I may not use ISO100 for all situations nor the same AF settings.  If you want to use them as a starting point for your own custom settings it is easiest to just download my config file here: Nikon D800 custom settings file. You should also grab the custom picture control explained in footnote 3. To use the custom settings file, copy it to your media card, insert the media card into your camera and navigate to SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> Load settings. This will copy the settings over to your camera.  You may want to save your own settings before you copy mine to your camera in case you need to revert back.

Note the [change this] in the settings below, these are things you will want to change in your own camera before you start shooting.  At the bottom, you can also see what I put in "MY MENU" to access some controls I often change on the fly.

To switch between the various menu banks, you have several options:

  • The slow way.  Go to menu -> shooting menu -> shooting menu bank -> select your bank.  Then go to custom setting menu -> custom settings bank -> select your bank.
  • I have 'shooting menu bank' and 'custom settings bank' as the top two items of 'my menu'.  This allows me to change the settings relatively quickly but also provides a visual reminder of what banks I'm using when I go into this menu.
  • The fastest way is to simply press the "info" button twice, that should select your shooting bank.  Press the center button in the multi-selector, pick your setting.  Do the same for custom settings bank.

If you have questions, or a suggestion feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the page.  If you want more detail on the settings below download Nikon's D800/D800E manual (free), for something even better I recommend Thom Hogan's Complete Guide to the D800/D800E ($30).  Thom not only covers the options but gives you a recommendation on what to use for each setting.

HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
EXTERNAL CONTROLS
Exposure ModeA (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)P (Program)
Metering Mode3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering
Bracketing5F, +/-1 EV (use 7 or 9F if needed)OffOffOff
Shooting ModeTimerCH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)
WBAutoAutoAutoAuto
ISO100Auto100Auto
QUALRAWRAWRAWJPEG FINE
Autofocus Mode *1Manual or AF-C, single pointAF-C, 3DAF-C, single pointAF-S, Auto
SETUP MENU
Format memory cardAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Monitor brightnessManual (0)Manual (0)Manual (0)Manual (0)
Clean image sensorClean at shutdownClean at shutdownClean at shutdownClean at shutdown
Lock mirror up cleaningAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Image Dust Off ref photoAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
HDMIDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Flicker reductionAutoAutoAutoAuto
Time zone and dateSet to local timeSet to local timeSet to local timeSet to local time
LanguageEnglishEnglishEnglishEnglish
Auto image rotationOnOnOnOn
Battery infoN/AN/AN/AN/A
Wireless TransmitterN/AN/AN/AN/A
Image comment *2NoneNoneNoneNone
Copyright InformationOn [change this]On [change this]On [change this]On [change this]
Save/load settingsAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
GPSN/AN/AN/AN/A
Virtual horizonN/AN/AN/AN/A
Non-CPU lens dataN/AN/AN/AN/A
AF fine tuneSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if needed
Firmware versionN/AN/AN/AN/A
SHOOTING MENU
Shooting menu bankABCD
Extended menu banksONONONON
Storage folderDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
File NamingMKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]
Primary slot selectionCF card slotCF card slotCF card slotCF card slot
Secondary slot functionBackupBackupBackupBackup
Image qualityRAWRAWRAWJPEG FINE
Image SizeN/AN/AN/ALarge
Image area
- Auto DX cropOnOnOnOn
- Choose Image areaFXFXFXFX
JPEG CompressionOpitmal QualityOpitmal QualityOpitmal QualityOpitmal Quality
NEF (RAW) recording
- TypeLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressed
- NEF bit depth14-bit14-bit14-bit14-bit
White BalanceAuto1Auto1Auto1Auto1
Set Picture Control *3Custom (Live View Max Sharp)SD (Standard)PT (Portrait)VI (Vivid)
Manage Picture ControlDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Color SpaceAdobeRGBAdobeRGBAdobeRGBsRGB
Active D-LightingOffOffOffOff
HDR (high dyn. range)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)Off
Vignette controlNormalNormalNormalHigh
Auto distortion controlOnOnOnOn
Long Exp. NROffOffOffOff
High ISO NRLowLowLowNormal
ISO Sensitivity Settings
ISO sensitivity100100100100
Auto ISO sensitivity controlOffOn (Max ISO: 6400, Min shutter: auto,faster)OffOn (Max ISO: 6400, Min
shutter: auto,faster)
Multiple exposureOffOffOffOff
Interval timer shootingOffOffOffOff
Time-lapse photographyOffOffOffOff
Movie settings
Frame size/rate1920x1080; 30fps1920x1080; 30fps1920x1080; 30fps1920x1080; 30fps
Movie qualityHighHighHighHigh
MicrophoneAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivity
DestinationSDSDSDSD
CUSTOM SETTING MENU
Sustom settings bankABCD
a1 AF-C priority selectReleaseReleaseReleaseRelease
a2 AF-S priority selectFocusFocusFocusFocus
a3 Focus track lock-onOffLongShortNormal
a4 AF ActivationOff (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)On
a5 AF point illuminationOnOnOnOn
a6 Focus point wrapOffOffOffOff
a7 Number of focus points51515151
a8 Built-in AF assist illumOffOffOffOff
b1 ISO sensitivity step val.1/31/31/31/3
b2 EV steps for exposure1/31/31/31/3
b3 Exp./flash comp step1/31/31/31/3
b4 Easy exposure comp.OffOffOffOff
b5 Center-weighted area12mm12mm12mm12mm
b6 Fine tune optimal exp.0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)
c1 Shutter-release AE-LOffOffOffOff
c2 Auto meter-off delay10s10s10s10s
c3 Self-timer
- Self-timer delay2s10s10s10s
- Number of shots5 (should match # bracket exposures)111
- Interval between shots0.5s0.5s0.5s0.5s
c4 Monitor off delay
- Playback10s10s10s10s
- Menus1m1m1m1m
- Information display10s10s10s10s
- Image review10s10s10s10s
- Live view10m10m10m10m
d1 BeepOffOffOffOff
d2 CL mode shoot speed2fps2fps2fps2fps
d3 Max continuous release100100100100
d4 Exposure delay modeOff (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)
d5 File number sequenceOnOnOnOn
d6 Viewfinder grid displayOnOnOnOn
d7 ISO display adjustmentOffOffOffOff
d8 Screen tipsOnOnOnOn
d9 Information displayAutoAutoAutoAuto
d10 LCD illuminationOnOnOnOn
d11 MB-D12 battery typeLR6LR6LR6LR6
d12 Battery orderMB-D12MB-D12MB-D12MB-D12
e1 Flash Sync Speed1/2501/2501/2501/250
e2 Flash shutter speed1/601/601/601/60
e3 Flash cntrl built-inTTLTTLTTLTTL
e4 Modeling flashOnOnOnOn
e5 Auto bracketing setAEAEAEAE
e6 Auto bracket (Mode M)Flash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speed
e7 Bracketing orderUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > over
f1 switchLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info display
f2 Multiselect center button
- Shooting modeResetResetResetReset
- Playback modeZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnification
- Live viewZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnification
f3 Multi selectorOffOffOffOff
f4 Assign Fn button
- Fn button pressViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizon
- Fn button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f5 Assign preview button
- Preview button pressPreviewPreviewPreviewPreview
- Preview button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f6 Assign AE-L/AF-L button
- AE-L/AF-L button pressAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lock
- AE-L/AF-L + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f7 Shutter spd & ap lockN/AN/AN/AN/A
f8 Assign BKT ButtonBKTBKTBKTBKT
f9 Cust. command dialsDefault (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)
f10 Release button to use  dialOffOffOffOff
f11 Slot emply release lockLockLockLockLock
f12 Reverse indicators- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +- 0 +
f13 Assign MB-D12 AF-ONAF-ONAF-ONAF-ONAF-ON
g1 Assign Fn buttonPower aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)
g2 Assign preview buttonPower aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)
g3 Assign AE-L/AF-LAE LockAE LockAE LockAE Lock
g4 Assign shutter buttonTake photosTake photosTake photosTake photos
PLAYBACK MENU
DeleteSelectedSelectedSelectedSelected
Playback folderND800 (default)ND800 (default)ND800 (default)ND800 (default)
Hide imageDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Playback display optionsHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, Overview
Copy image(s)N/AN/AN/AN/A
Image reviewOffOffOffOff
After deleteShow nextShow nextShow nextShow next
Rotate tallOffOffOffOff
Slide showN/AN/AN/AN/A
DPOF print orderN/AN/AN/AN/A
MY MENU
Shooting menu Bank
Custom settings bank
c3 Self-timer
d4 Exposure delay mode
ISO sensitivity settings
Long exposure NR
Active D-Lighting

Footnotes

*1 - Autofocus : I have started using the "AF-ON" technique (for lack of a better term) to focus my camera. You can read more about the technique here. You will see that in my settings, I primarily use AF-C as the default focus mode when I use the camera. With the AF-ON technique, you decouple the focusing of the camera from the shutter press. The nice thing is that you can have both continuous and static autofocus at the same time. Focus and recompose is also easier as you don't have to keep the shutter half-pressed, just release the AF-ON button and the camera stops focusing. It works very well, but takes a bit of getting used to. This technique works on both Nikon and Canon cameras (likely other brands as well but I haven't checked into it).

*2 - Image comment : There are two spots to put your personal info into the file EXIF data: "Image comment" and "Copyright information". Some people use both, but there isn't really a reason to do so. I have found one reason not to use the 'image comment' field, and that is because the comment shows up in the description field when you post images online (facebook for example). At times, I post images to facebook and I don't want the description for each one to say "copyright 2013...", blah, blah, blah. My friends want to see something about the image, not a copyright notice. For me, it just makes the upload process more time consuming and it doesn't add any value. You may like it, so feel free to use the field if that fits into your workflow.

*3 - Set Picture Control : The live view of the Nikon D800 isn't great, but I still use it at times to get sharp focus. I zoom in the live view display and manually focus the lens to the best setting. If you change the picture control to the highest sharpening level you actually get a better display. Since I almost always shoot in raw, this has no effect on the final image. You can edit your existing picture control but it's best to create a new, custom, one. To make this easier, you can download a custom picture control I created called Live View Max Sharp. Unzip the file, you should see a "Nikon" folder, copy that to the top level (root) of your flash card and put the card into your camera. In the menu, go to SHOOTING MENU (camera icon)-> Manage picture control -> Load/save -> Copy to camera => Live View Max Sharp, click "OK". Select one of the custom picture control spaces to use (C1..C9) and you are done. Now you still have all of your default picture controls plus the new one to pick from.



Most popular posts of 2012

Best of 2012

I took a look at my Google Analytics and thought I would show what my three most popular posts of 2012 have been.   Not surprising that they are all photo gear related.

  1. Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800 : A Quick Comparison - Three cameras that photo enthusiasts are buying.  Different price ranges, and performance but all fantastic cameras.
  2. Nikon D600 Vs Canon 6D - Entry Level Full Frame Scrap - Nikon and Canon both released entry level full frame cameras.  Both will sell well, and nice to see that full frame is now becoming more affordable.
  3. Nikon D800 Contrast and Phase Detect Autofocus Testing - My early release D800 had the left side autofocus problems.  I posted my test methodology and results, sent my camera to Nikon, but the saga is not yet over.

My most popular photo related post was Hiking the Binkert Trail To The Lions which covers a popular hike in Vancouver, BC.   Thanks to everyone for visiting, and happy holidays.

 

Some of my favorite photos of 2012

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Big Beach Sunset 2

Sunset in Belize, Coco Plum Island Resort

Alberta Visit Aug 2012 : Old Farmhouse Sunset HDR 2

Stawamus Chief - 2012-09-13 - Chipmunk

CFL Football : BC Lions vs Montreal Alouettes : Sept 8 2012 : BC Place Stadium Panorama

Wordpress Jetpack Carousel Test: Shelter Dogs 2012

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : tiny people on west lion 2

Wordpress Jetpack Carousel Test: Shelter Dogs 2012

Wordpress Jetpack Carousel Test: Shelter Dogs 2012

Siwash Rock At Sunset : 2012-07-06

Shelter Dogs for Adoption : 2012-06-27 : Jack Russel Terrier 4

Dragon Boat Festival: 2012-06-17 : Group : 300 Style

2012-12-05 : Belize Vacation : Scuba Diving : Pterois Lionfish

Vancouver : Portside / Crab Park : Vancouver skyline reflection 2 : 2012-11-21

Ucluelet BC Vacation : 2012-10 : Gray Whale Tail Fluke

Stawamus Chief Panorama : Sept 13, 2012 : 5000 pixels

Jammie mouth

Garden Bee: 2012-06-20 : Focus Stack with Zerene Stacker (105mm f/2.8 VR Micro)

 

 

MKH3754_5_6-Edit

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pomeranian

Wreck Beach Vancouver 2012-05-08 Nikon D800 Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR

 

Light painting attempt back hoe 2

 

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Mallard in flight

Amsterdam Dec 2011 long exposure train

20120317-Shelter Dogs March 17 2012-7018-MKH_mini

 

 


Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Left Side

Nikon D600 Vs Canon 6D - Entry Level Full Frame Scrap

Photographers should be happy, both Nikon and Canon have released 'affordable' full frame cameras into their lineup. Nikon is already shipping theirs while Canon simply announced a camera with availability in a few months. Nothing like a 'me too' announcement when the competition gets the jump on you. Nikon is first to market with the D600, a $2100 USD, 24 megapixel camera. Canon follows up with the 6D, a $2100, 20 megapixel camera.

This year, there seems to be a shift towards Nikon in terms of technical camera performance. Before the latest models were released, Canon had a highly successful offering in the 5D Mark II, a 21 megapixel full frame camera with high quality video capability for $2700 (at launch).  Nikon could not compete on video spec, or resolution with the D700 and D3S having only 12 megapixels.  The insanely priced D3X had 24 megapixels but at $8000 it did not compete well with Canon's offering.

Fast forward to 2012 and Nikon has a 36 megapixel D800 ($3000), a 24 megapixel D600 ($2100), and a 16 megapixel D4 ($6000).  Canon in turn released the 5D Mark III adding only 1 megapixel for a total of 22 and is now charging $3500 for the body.  It follows that with a 20 megapixel 6D for $2100 and an 18 megapixel 1D X for $6800.  Megapixels are not everything, but looking at the full frame landscape today it's obvious that Nikon didn't like taking a back seat and has come back with a vengence.

All those megapixels don't mean much if they don't perform well.  Not only did Nikon ratchet up the resolution they also developed some high quality sensors as well.  Looking at the DxO Mark scores you can see that Nikon is at the top of the pile in DSLR performance these days.

DxO Mark D600 D800 5D Mark III

 

Looking at the scores, it's a thorough trashing of Canon. The Nikon cameras have a history of good dynamic range, but the new sensors really take it up a notch. Even the entry level D600 beats Canon's 5DIII. Unfortunately, the 6D scores are not available yet but I'm sure they will be lower than those of the 5DIII. Canon has some catching up to do in the next refresh of the lineup though I doubt Nikon will rest on their laurels.

With the sensor discussion out of the way (mostly), we can see how other features of the two entry level cameras stack up. Comparing the physical cameras first.

Left side view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Left Side
 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Left Side

 

Rear view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Back

 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Back

 

Front view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Front

 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Front

 

Top view

Nikon D600 Full Frame Camera : Top

 

Canon 6D Full Frame Camera : Top

 

Nikon seems to put more buttons on their cameras, especially on the front. I can't comment much on the handling of the Canon cameras as I haven't spent much time with them so I'll reserve judgement on ergonomics and accessibility of features only to say that Nikon is clearly better ;)

 

Now looking at the basic specs.

Spec

Nikon D600

Canon 6D

Sensor Resolution (MP)24.3 megapixels20.2 megapixels
Max Image Resolution6,016 x 4,0165,472 x 3,648
ViewfinderPentaprismPentaprism
Viewfinder Coverage100%97%
Built-in FlashYes (with wireless control)No
Storage MediaDual SD cardSingle SD card
Frame rate5.5 fps4.5 fps
Max Shutter Speed1/4000 to 30 sec1/4000 to 30 sec
Shutter Durability150,000100,000
Native ISO100-6,400100-25,600
Boosted ISO50-25,60050-102,400
Autofocus39-point AF with 9 cross type11-point AF with 1 cross-type
Autofocus Detectionf/8f/5.6
GPSVia adapterBuilt-in
WifiVia Eye-FiBuilt-in

 

Nikon is clearly ahead in almost all of the performance specs. It has higher resolution, faster frame rates, better autofocus, and dual storage cards. Canon has better ISO numbers but I suspect the D600 will be clearly superior in low light performance compared to the 6D. Makes no difference if the 6D goes to 100K ISO, those photos are not usable. The DxO Mark scores already show that the D600 is better than the much more expensive 5D Mark III so it's unlikely the 6D will fare any better. Canon throws in some gizmos like GPS and Wifi to try and distract you from the obvious performance gap.

It's unlikely anyone would jump ship form one brand to another as an investment in lenses usually means the cost to switch is significantly higher than simply the cost of the body. I'm sure the 6D will be a capable camera however if you are new to the DSLR world and considering these two models the Nikon D600 is a technically better camera.

Also see: Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800.


Nikon D7000, D600, D800 Visual Comparison : Front and Rear View

Nikon D7000 vs D600 vs D800 : A Quick Comparison

Nikon just announced their new entry level full frame DSLR camera, the D600. It wasn't a very well kept secret as leaks started getting out months ago. There was speculation that this would be a sub-$2000 USD camera but in the end the retail price at launch is $2100. Still a good price considering the sensor and other options. It looks like a blend between a D7000 and D800 both in terms of spec and appearance. Below you can see some of the similarities and differences between the three bodies.

The Nikon D600 with Nikkor 200mm f/2 lens.
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Nikkor 200mm f/2 Lens

 

I'm not gong to rehash the full specification of any camera. Nikon and many other reviews provide that info already. If you want to check into the details, here are the spec sheets for the three cameras: D7000, D600, D800.

 

What I do want to cover is how the cameras are similar and how they are different. Just taking a look at the camera, it looks like Nikon took a D7000 body and shoehorned a full frame sensor inside. Some modifications to the body were necessary, but for the most part the cameras are very similar in terms of layout.

 

Nikon D600 Front View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camra : Front View
 

Nikon D600 Right Side View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Right Side View

 

Nikon D600 Left Side View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Left Side View

 

Nikon D600 Rear View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Rear View

 

Nikon D600 Top View
Nikon D600 FX DSLR Camera : Top View

 

Finally, a comparison between the D7000, D600, and D800
Nikon D7000, D600, D800 Visual Comparison : Front and Rear View

 

If you look at the three bodies, you can see that the D600 has some controls more like a D7000 and others more like a D800. Not a bad thing for a model that fits in between the two in the lineup. Users on either end of the spectrum should be comfortable with the controls, though I think it's more like a D7000 and targeted at the consumer/hobby segment of the market.

 

Nikon D700 users who were hoping for a clear upgrade path didn't get one. Nikon provided a clear upgrade for the D3S in the D4, but the D700 was essentially split into two cameras. The D800 a higher resolution but slower camera (which also replaced the D3X) and a D600 which is a smaller and less feature rich body. For professionals, the upgrade path is likely the D800 due to it's ergonomics, autofocus speed, full magnesium body, compact flash storage, flash sync, max shutter speed, and shutter durability. For hobby shooters, serious amateurs, and pros who need a back up body the D600 may be the better choice. It still provides great image quality in a smaller and lighter package. Regardless, the D600 at $2100 US is destined to sell very well.

 

In terms of pricing, Nikon has a very linear price curve at the lower end of the lineup. It's clear that they want to hit every market segment and ensure they capture every type of buyer. Having said that, the D300S seems to be the most in need of an update and without it in the lineup there would be a significant gap between the D7000 and the D600. To me, this means that a D400 will be announced in the not too distant future. It will likely carry on the tradition of a high end, high-speed crop sensor (DX) body with pro level ergonomics.
 
Nikon DSLR Prices : D3200, D5100, D7000, D300S, D600, D800, D4

 

Differences between the cameras button layouts are obvious, no big surprises for anyone used to shooting a Nikon body. There are also some significant differences inside the shells as well.

Spec

D7000

D600

D800

Sensor Resolution (MP)16.2 megapixels24.3 megapixels36.3megapixels
Sensor SizeAPS-C (DX)Full frame (FX)Full frame (FX)
Max Resolution (pixels)4928 x 32646016 x 40167360 x 4912
DX Resolution (MP)16.2 megapixels10.3 megapixels15.3 megapixels
DX Resolution (pixels)4928 x 32643,936 x 2,6244,800 x 3,200
Sensor Pixel Size4.78µ5.9µ4.8µ

 

The D800 is clearly the resolution leader, not just for Nikon but all DSLR cameras as of September 2012 (and likely for some time to come). The D800 also holds it's own quite well even when shot in DX mode. If you need the extra reach or still have DX lenses you get file sizes almost exactly the same as a D7000 but with the benefit of the better sensor and processing. However, no one should buy the D800 and shoot it in DX mode, use it just until you transition your lenses to FX or the odd time you don't need the full 36mp. If you plan to shoot DX all the time, save yourself $2000 and buy a D7000. The D600 has the biggest pixels, and likely the best pixel level noise traits but that is not relevant because what matters is noise level in the final image (on screen or in print). Downsampling a 36mp D800 file to the same resolution has noise benefits. I'm sure there will be a lot of comparisons between these two cameras very soon.

 

Spec

D7000

D600

D800

Frame Rate6 fps5.5 fps4 fps (FX), 6 fps (DX with grip)
U1 & U2 Modes?YESYESNO :(
Sync Speed1/2501/2001/250
Max Shutter1/80001/40001/8000
Storage MediaDual SD cardsDual SD cards1 compact flash + 1 SD card
Price$1000 USD$2100 USD$3000 USD

 

All three of these cameras have weather sealing, pentaprism (not pentamirror), 100% viewfinder coverage which is a good thing. D600 doesn't have USB 3.0, but who cares (most people use a card reader). The biggest disappointment for many users when the D800 was announced was the 4 fps shooting rate in FX mode. That is quite slow by modern DSLR standards but somewhat understandable when you see how much data is being crunched in that time. The D600 and D7000 are a more reasonable 5.5 and 6 fps respectively. I doubt anyone will complain about those specifications, they are fast enough for any enthusiast. The d600 gets the U1/U2 modes just like the D7000, it boggles the mind why Nikon did not include this on the D800. The menu banks are a joke by comparison, I don't even use them. Similar story with storage, D7000 and D600 both have dual SD card slots but the D800 gets SD+compact flash. Why? I get that they want to tailor to pros who may be invested in CF cards but give me a break. If you can buy a $3000 body you can likely but a couple of extra cards. With the resolution of the D800 most people will need new (and much bigger) cards anyway. It should have been dual CF, now I need to buy and carry two types of media.

 

One thing that is clear is that Nikon intentionally crippled the D600 with the 1/200 sync speed and 1/4000 max shutter speed. These may not be problems for many shooters, but for anyone serious about strobes or fast primes lenses in bright light will run into problems. Pros will likely skip the D600, even as a backup, for these reasons. Good for Nikon, bad for us.

 

In the end, the D600 fits very well into Nikon's new FX camera lineup. Unlike the previous lineup which had the D700, D3S, and D3X the new lineup of the D600, D800, and D4 offers better pricing for most users and a better distinction between the cameras in the lineup. I'm looking forward to seeing image samples from the D600 once they start getting into users hands.

Also see: Nikon D600 vs Canon 6D: an entry level full frame comparison


Stawamus Chief Panorama : Sept 13, 2012 : 2048 pixels

100 Megapixel Nikon D800 Panorama from the Stawamus Chief

Today, I hiked to the top of the south peak of the Stawamus Chief, a popular hike near Squamish, BC. I took a lot of photos including the panorama below. The full size panorama is 22,383x4378 pixels (ok, not 100 megapixels but 98, close enough). Shot with a Nikon D800 and 24-70 f/2.8 lens. The variation of color in the sky is due to the use of a polarizing filter. It helps with contrast but because so much of the sky is visible the angle to the sun changes substantially in the shot from left to right.

First, a small version of the file, 2048 x 401 (0.82 megapixels, 641Kb)
Stawamus Chief Panorama : Sept 13, 2012 : 2048 pixels

 

If you want to see a slightly bigger version, here is a link to a 5000 x 978 (4.89 megapixels, 3.6MB) version of the file. It will open in a new window.
Open the larger file.

Finally, if you really want to download the huge 100 megapixel file (over 80MB) you can do so below. It is a zip file, I didn't want the file to open in the browser. Just download and unzip.
100 megapixel D800 panorama.

The PSD file that created the compressed jpg above is over 1GB in size and that is after I cropped a significant portion of the image from the top and bottom. There will be a lot more photos from this hike posted soon.


Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the lions

Hiking the Binkert Trail To The Lions

The Lions are two very familiar peaks that can be seen from Vancouver. I have hiked most of the mountains in the immediate Vancouver area but the Lions always looked down on me with a smug look. Every time I looked to the North Shore I could see the twin peaks and I knew I had to get up there one day. On August 18th, five of us decided to make the trek and I was the only Lions virgin in the group.

The trail starts in Lions Bay and is a 16km round trip journey. The elevation gain is 1280m (4200') with some very steep sections you will feel in your legs. This is a strenuous hike and of the hikes I have completed may be second only to Black Tusk in terms of effort.  I would not bring your dog on this trail, there are sections that would not be easy for your four-legged friend and there are some very steep cliffs.  The hike took us about 3.5 hours in each direction, with a one hour break at the top to enjoy the view, eat lunch, and take photos.  For more detail on the trail feel free to check out these links (some include updates on conditions): Vancouver Trails, Club Tread, Trail Peak, Live Trails.

Some photos from the hike.  First, the motley crew ventures out at the start of the day.  The trail is fairly flat and everyone is feeling good.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : motley crue

Things begin to get steeper, everyone is still having a good time and chatting.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : getting steeper

 

One of the only waterfalls along the route. Not much rain in the area lately and the snow pack is almost gone so it's really just a trickle at this point. Harvey Creek is much bigger with pools large enough for a dip. There is a well built bridge over this creek so you will certainly know when you are there.

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : waterfall

 

The trail takes a sharp turn up and chatting turns into cursing.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the slog

 

Coming out of the trees, you are finally rewarded with stunning views of Howe Sound.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : howe sound views

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Inuksuk over howe sound

 

The Lions are still looming, a long way to go.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : break with lions looming

 

The group taking a breather after a few hours of hard climbing.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : group taking a break

 

Back on the trail, hiking turns into scrambling.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the rock scramble

 

And now with snow :)
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : the rock scramble with snow

 

Near the top of the rock scramble, views are still great and a good motivator.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : boulders

 

After a few more tricky sections, you finally reach the ridge and see a full view of the Lions before you.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion on left, east lion on the right

 

It was a bit hazy, but the view from the top was truly spectacular. Hard to beat and makes the 3.5 hour climb completely worth it.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view from the lions hike

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : both lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Howe Sound from the Lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : amazing view

 

You need to be careful with your footing on the ridge, there are very steep cliffs on both sides. One misstep and you won't be around to tell anyone about it.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view and cliff

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : gap cliff and view

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Inuksuk and the lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : view and cliff 2

 

Up close and personal with the West Lion.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : up close and personal with west lion

 

The West Lion towering over Scott and Jason.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion looms in the background

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : west lion towers over Scott and Mason

 

It is possible to climb to the top of the West Lion, but only for those with some experience with this type of activity should even attempt it. It is a high consequence climb with no room for error. If you decide to do it, you need to descend down a small cliff (a rope is provided). People here are waiting to climb down.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : waiting at rope

 

Once on the West Lion, find the best route up. You can see how steep it is in the photos below.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : climb up west lion

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : tiny people on west lion

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : tiny people on west lion 2

 

The hike is popular in the late summer, especially on a nice day. We didn't see many people on the trail, but there were a few at the top.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : lions ridge and view

 

Of course, some things didn't have to climb to the top. Cheater :)
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Raven on the lions

 

I can imagine life at the top is not easy for any plants or animals that choose to live here.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : rough life on the lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : both lions

 

Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : east lion

 

Vancouver feels very far away when you are up here.
Lions Binkert Trail Hike Vancouver - 2012-08-18 : Vancouver is far away

 

On the way down, your knees will take a serious beating. The trail through the forest and the gravel road seem to stretch on forever. At the end of the day though, it's an amazing climb and worth the effort for anyone who wants to make the journey.


Vancouver Sun Dog

Vancouver Sun Halo

Yesterday, on my way to the East Van Show and Shine, my friend Eli pointed out a circular rainbow around the sun.  Not something you see every day, and since we both had our cameras we took some photos.  Someone suggested that this phenomenon is called a sun dog or sundog (Wikipedia), but I think it is actually a sun halo.  A sun dog is a 'mock sun', or a bright point of light similar to the sun.  I this case, it's a complete circular halo around the sun and looks like a rainbow. There are some references to these things here and here.

Vancouver Sun Dog

Update (May 29):  After posting on a forum, it turns out this phenomenon is called  a sun halo.  It is seen when thin cirrus clouds are present high in the atmosphere on a sunny day.  Light refracts off ice crystals and creates the effect.  More info here: 22° halo at Wikipedia, NASA.


Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pit Bull

Shelter Dogs May 11 2012

Another trip to Vancouver Animal Control to photograph dogs.  Photos from previous visits can be seen here.  As always, you can see the animals available for adoption from this shelter by visiting their PetFinder page or just drop in at the shelter.

First up, this young pit bull who is a bit chunky but loves to play.

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pit Bull

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pit Bull

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pit Bull

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pit Bull

I had to visit the puppies again, they are great dogs and won't last long.  Previous photos of these little guys are here.

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Puppies

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Puppies

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Puppies

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Puppies

A playful and very cute Pomeranian.

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pomeranian

Call of the wild

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pomeranian

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pomeranian

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - Pomeranian

And a German Shepherd who was more interested in napping in the grass than having her photo taken.

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - German Shepherd

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - German Shepherd

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - German Shepherd

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - German Shepherd

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - German Shepherd

Vancouver Animal Control - Shelter Dogs - 2012-05-11 - German Shepherd

 

 


Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Another visit to the Vancouver Aquarium

I have had a membership at the Vancouver Aquarium for the last few years and I like to visit often.  It's a great place to just walk around and relax.  I almost always see something new and different.  I like to bring my camera, you never know what you will see.

Don't bug me, I'm crabby

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Best buds, Gus and Ollie, hyacinth macaws

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01

Vancouver Aquarium - 2012-05-01


Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint in Vancouver

What a great day for some dragon boat racing.  Since my wife is on a team, I went down to take some photos and enjoy the nice weather.  Spring Sprint is a warm up to the big Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, which is in mid June.   The boats are smaller, only 10 paddlers instead of the usual 20 and the distance is substantially shorter as well.  Still fun to watch, especially when you can soak up the sun after the miserable April showers.

The races are held in False Creek with downtown Vancouver as the backdrop.  Hard to find a nicer venue than this.

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12

The staging area is right beside Science World.

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12

Some shots of the action.

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12

 

 

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12

Organized chaos.

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12

Dragon Boat Spring Sprint - Vancouver, BC - 2012-05-12


Light painting Toyota Tacoma

First attempt at light painting

This didn't start out as a light painting shoot. My friend Andrew wanted to get some long exposure shots of planes taking off so we ventured down to the airport near sunset. Before the sun went down, we took a few shots at Iona Beach.

Iona Beach Sunset

The beach wasn't particularly interesting, so as the sun was going down I decided to try out the variable ND filter I purchased.  First time I have ever used an ND filters, but it was a day of firsts so why not.  Here are a couple of shots, looks like it could be fun and the effect can't be duplicated any other way.

Iona Beach Sunset long exposure with ND filter

Iona Beach Sunset long exposure with ND filter

And here is Andrew setting up for a sunset shot.

Iona Beach Sunset Andrew

The sun finally set so we found a spot where we could see the runway and decided to shoot planes on the way in and out of the airport.  There were not a lot of flights and we couldn't get a decent photo.  Out of the photos I took, this was the best one and it is average at best.

Vancouver airport airplane light trails

We quickly got bored, and decided to try some light painting.  Started with waving the flashlights around.

Light painting attempt

Then we noticed the back hoe, so we decided to try some light painting on that.  The idea was to trace the bucket and tracks with brighter light and fill in the rest.  For a first attempt, somewhat successful.

Light painting attempt back hoe

And better after we stumbled on some better camera settings.

Light painting attempt back hoe 2

Found a bulldozer nearby as well.

Light painting attempt dozer

And finally my truck before we wrapped up for the night.

Light painting Toyota Tacoma

Finally, I asked Andrew to paint on some horns, he must of thought I said "propeller".  They sound so similar I can see where he got mixed up.

Light painting Toyota Tacoma Andrew horns

So I had to try it myself

Light painting Toyota Tacoma Mike horns